Combining both political fantasy and theory, the author imagines how he would reconstruct the federal government if he suddenly found himself king of the United States.
The gimmick of this book is also a point of serious commentary: Debut author High imagines how he would overhaul a dysfunctional federal government if he were endowed with monarchical power. High insists he values democracy as a political system but is pessimistic about its ability to heal its own wounds: “I believe in democracy, but a strong hand is needed to repair America’s broken federal system.” His recommendations are certainly ambitious, constituting nothing less than a comprehensive reorganization of all organizations that answer to executive power and beyond. Within a general push for considerably streamlined government and increased efficiency, High redefines the parameters of seven major federal departments, ranging from Treasury to Energy, and eliminates quite a few more. While there’s hubris in the author’s proposal, he at least acknowledges his historic reform will require an army of “experts” he’s confident will solve any problem he can’t. Still, this is not a volume brimming with modesty; he doesn’t just suggest a king in principle, but himself as king in particular. Some of the proposals are cheekily provocative: His “Royal Amendment Five” stipulates that “Members of Congress and Senators shall be paid no more than 3.5 times the median income of their district.” Others are harder to take seriously: He picks Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Thiel to head the Department of Homeland Security because he “understands technology.” It’s a shame he doesn’t assess the rich body of American political literature, especially Alexander Hamilton’s essays on the presidency in the Federalist Papers, which examine the ways executive power combines kingly authority with constitutional limits. Also, he extends this book to the reader “as a guide,” but since its suggestions are so implausible, it’s not clear how much practical value it can really offer.
A surprising amount of real analysis is embedded within this political fable, but it remains more fairy tale than meticulous study.